Things are happening so fast these days that it is hard simply to keep up with them, much less understand what is really going on. With all kinds of disasters - earthquakes, hurricanes, and the like - occurring, and a myriad of explanations - global warming, divine intervention, and human design - offered about their cause, it is hardly surprising that most people don't have a clue as to what to make of it, much less adopt any kind of agenda for getting a handle on the problem. The world seems to be undergoing revolutionary changes on many fronts, and the public is simply at a loss about what to do.
Perhaps, a way to take the measure of the problem is to discuss what most people, at a bare minimum, think about the world and how they are prepared to deal with its worst problems; what science, engineering and international institutions are prepared to do about them; and what kind of belief system the world's media is vaguely trying to impose on the fallout in order to reassure the world's populations about the future. This approach seems most called for since most of the time the media just engages in a hit-or-miss approach to the whole problem. Instead of jokes, avoidance and red-herrings, we need some kind of integrated answer to what is happening.
As I indicated in my last article about the subject, the classical economists are the best place to start, but instead of talking about what they wanted to achieve - free enterprise - this time we should look at how they hoped to achieve it. For English speakers, the essentials can be found in the works of Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham and Robert Malthus. They provide the necessary insights into how they planned to change a world dominated by state control and mercantilism into one where individuals could accummulate wealth with security despite the dangers of nature, resulting in populations which would experience increasingly stable economic prosperity.
Smith, in The Wealth of Nations - to end practice where governments interferred in a most destructive way in almost everything people did - called for them to give vent to the natural rights of all men so that they could have the liberty to do what would benefit them most, and, ultimately, society as a whole would flourish. The free competition Smith envisioned was not an unbridled one, though, where anything went, but one regulated by law to ensure that basic standards were maintained. Property must be protected against theft, and contracts enforced so that there is stability in the market. In Smith, government is little more than an umpire in a most open game - leading people to call the desired establishment a "night-watchman state".
While Bentham did not disagree with this agenda, he found it too simplistic, and uncertain. Goods could not simply be acquired, and retained. There were risks in taking things from nature, and there was no guarantee, without an established body of law about the whole process, that one's efforts would not be ruined somehow by others. As Bentham indicated in the opening paragraph of An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation: "Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne."
By pain and pleasure, he did not mean a simple hedonism, based upon sensation, but intelligent perceptions of the mind about all the opportunities and dilemmas of life. Free enterprise did not mean simply competition with other producers but controlled production in which the legislator worked to benefit one and all. There could be interference in enterprise when it protected the society as a whole, the interests of one who was being adversely effected by another's enterprise, and the essential needs of the people, especially food, were threatened because it was only by satisfying the subsistence of all that abundance became possible.
This very likely clash between population and basic production, agriculture, led Parson Robert Malthus to write his classic but hardly original Principles of Population during the midst of the Napoleonic Wars. After stating the dubious maxim that populations increase at a geometric rate while agriculture only at an arithmetic one, he discussed all the positive checks nature provided to population growth - floods, storms, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, disease, pestilence, famines, wars and the like - and the prudent steps individuals should take to eliminate or at least reduce their impact - abstinence from sex until one could afford to marry, abortion, infanticide, etc. Unlike the French philosoph Condorcet from whom the Anglican minister borrowed his theory, though, he did not include birth control as a check on population.
Charles Darwin's Origin of Species changed science dramatically by applying Malthus's ideas about global free competition for man to all of nature. "The motive force of evolution, according to him," Bertrand Russell wrote A History of Western Philosophy, "is a kind of biological economics in a world of free competition." (p. 726) Those individuals in a particular species who possessed the best traits, given their environment, were determined to win the struggle for existence over their less fortunate kin - demonstrating that they were the fittist to survive. Genetic make-up, instead of acquired characteristics, was what determined the winners among any species, and Sigmund Freud and his followers showed that evolution determined
even the innermost make-up - the wants - of man's mind.
While some, especially in the Americas, applied the teachings of Darwin to society, others, particularly Karl Marx and his followers, re-examined man's history, concluding that it directed a far different destiny for man - one which went from each according to his needs, to each according to his wants. Instead of man being locked into an increasingly destructive competition, he was on the way to a world of evermore opportunity and freedom, thanks to a blending of British economics with Friederich Hegel's philosophy of history. Now that industrial production had been established, Marx concluded, the wage-earner would simply take it over, and distribute goods in a much fairer, abundant way.
The wars of the 20th century changed all that. While decimating the best and the brightest of generations, and destroying vast amounts of wealth, they unleashed new levels of population upon the world which would fall prey to more checks upon their sustained growth.
The wars ruined any chance of the Progressive movement in America taming its Social Darwinism - what sought to increase, institutionalize, and legitimize the inequalities of nature's competition - while Europe's socialism was eviserated by the threat and promise of the embattled Soviet Union. "The tragedy of the October revolution," Eric Hobsbawn explained in The Age of Extremes, "was that it could only produce its kind of ruthless, brutal command socialism." (p. 498) And in the process, the arsenal of war had been made much greater and deadlier.
About the extreme which killed communism, nazism, and fascism, though, Hobsbawn was much less categorical, claiming that it was a mixture of weakened capitalism, and liberal democracies which would at least tolerate the continued existence of "...the more divinely inspired fundamentalist regimes." (p. 575) This seems a vast understatement of what
capitalism and American-led Western governments are capable of, and engaged in. The Americans and their British allies are quite clearly similarly divinely inspired - reclaimed creationists - who are prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve the kind of world God has instructed them to do. Bush, Blair and their followers are ideologues of the most dangerous kind, as Gorbachev learned while dealing with their predecessors. They were prepared to do with WMD whatever was required to get rid of the godless communists.
And Washington and London had gone far beyond MAD - mutually assured destruction - in dealing with the alleged red menace. First through surprises, and then with an overwhelmingly powerful weaponry, they were sure that they could prevail in any confrontation with any enemy, whether it be communists or Islamists. And their confidence was fundamentally based upon the fact that the world simply did not know their agenda, and what they were prepared to use, if necessary. It was not until the election of George W. Bush that the neocons were finally ready to play their hand no matter what was required.
While the Americans and the British demonstrated their tactical military superiority in the Gulf wars, their strategic monopoly in WMD - what started with Washington's weather wars with Castrol's Cuba after the Missile Crisis settlement left the regime in place - was only known to their inventors and operators. What started with simply a plan of hydro-meterological attacks on the island, hoping to starve the Cubans into overthrowing Castro, ultimately developed into a system of geological attacks which could cause massive tsunamis and earthquakes on command, almost anywhere in the world - and America is now even in the process of closing this small gap.
I was reminded of this last Saturday after I had shortly before finished my last article on this subject, indicating that Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England was now engaged in the process that Wolfowitz had directed before. It was Wolfowitz apparently who directed the massive earthquake against Bam, Iran's ancient treasure, killing tens of thousands when the mullahs were apparently stoking up the resistance in Iraq after its being freed from Saddam, and were threatening to close the Straits of Hormoz, a most vulnerable link in the shipment of oil for global capitalism. Then, it seems, Wolfowitz directed the unprecedented earthquake near the Straits of Malacca - another Christmas greeting - when more terrorists were apparently threatening them, killing ten times as many Muslims.
It was now England's turn to direct the campaign on cue, and he did not miss a beat. No sooner had Pakistan's President Pervey Musharraf been interviewed on CBS's Sixty Minutes, stating in no uncertain terms that Osama bin-Laden would beat him in any democratic election, and that the border with Afghanistan was completely under his control - with the tribal chiefs so scared that they would not even talk about his possible presence there - than the Pakistani capital of terrorist-dominated Kashmir was struck with the most devastating earthquake in its history, killing 40,000 people, and wiping out the next generation of possible Pakistani terrorists.
The earthquake was an essential component of the new US-Pakistani strategic partnership, as it was the only thing which could give Musharraf's coup-based government real legitimacy - what he reminded 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft of when he joshed about Osama winning any free and fair election. Musharraf grabbed power in 1999, and managed to stay on right after the earthquake in Iran. Thanks to two nearly successful asssassination attacks on December 14th and 25th - and how he managed to survive is still a mystery - he was able to pressure the Pakistan Parliament and four provincial assemblies to give him a vote of confidence - what he interpreted Article 41(8) of the Constitution justifying his staying on until 2007, and what many members of Parliament, mostly Muslims, protested by walking out.
Hardly had the dust started settling from the gigantic quake than American Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker - who replaced Wolfowitz for the position when it was thought his remaining in Washington as Rumsfeld's deputy to direct the war on terror was essential despite his vast mistakes in pacifying Iraq - started giving grants, assistance, and loans to the beleaguered country - complementing what Wolfowitz's regional expert at the World Bank was now supplying at the expense of more long-term investment. To give legitimacy to the efforts, Secretary of State Condi Rice made an unplanned visit to Islamabad, arrriving as the proper emissary of the President, and promising to do whatever it takes for Pakistan to defeat the terrorists.
England, in short, is well and truly teaching the terrorists the lessons of nature and history, and one can just wonder where he may strike next. Will it be an earthquake in Damascus, or another one in Iran, one even closer to the Straits? In any case, while people are talking about the possibilities of nuclear attacks on and/or by Iran, and the need of its nuclear disarmament, the Pentagon is doing, it seems, the work necessary for winning the war on terrorism by other means - as the American President says, no matter how long, and how destructive it may be - as God, it seems, has turned out to be an avenging neocon.